The Kingmaker

Throughout history, one of the most important and yet least known figures is the kingmaker. If you make a king you break a king. In so doing you may change the course of history.

Pope Innocent IV excommunicated and deposed King Sancho II of Portugal in 1245, accusing him of being rex innutilis, a useless king. The monarch abdicated two years later in favor of his son. Ironically, the ousted king was known as Sancho the Pious.

In search of a deposed king, I found this "iluminura" on a site devoted to Galician-Portuguese medieval songs, many of them bawdy.

One of the best known kingmakers was Napoleon, who readily deposed the monarchs of Europe, replacing them with obscure Corsicans (i.e. members of his own family). But it didn’t last. Perhaps the most far-reaching consequence was the most unexpected. The Portuguese royal family left for exile in Brazil, and the king’s son subsequently refused to come back to Portugal. Instead, he became the first emperor of Brazil, and Brazil gained independence peacefully.

An excellent book, called 1808, which is I believe only available in Portuguese, tells how Dom Pedro, the king’s son, rode to a place called Ipiranga in the state of São Paulo, where he let fly with a cry for independence. A blow for freedom is still known in Portugal as o grito do Ipiranga. The book also tells us that the prince had been suffering from the most hideous diarrhea, forcing him to frequently dismount to purge his bowels, undoubtedly further mashed by the horse ride. One therefore suspects that Pedro’s liberation grito was somewhat of an anguished cry.

But the real kingmaker plots behind the scenes, and does not seek the light. The éminence grise, or grey eminence, prefers instead to work from the shadows, in order to, as the Portuguese saying goes,  levar a água ao seu moinho. Bringing water to your mill is not easy, since so many others wish to channel it to theirs. And it suggests that you do not actively push, since that doesn’t work well with fluids. Instead, you create the conditions for a path to be followed, and the water will obediently flow.

The aqueous metaphor is entirely appropriate, because the grey eminence leads  those who have a weak will, so that if a path of least resistance appears before them, they readily flow in that direction. Once the road is chosen, the weak man follows it down. Water does not run uphill.

Unlike Jean Armand Duplessis, the infamous Cardinal Richelieu, the modern kingmakers of the west are not men of the cloth. But they are no less successful.

I have been following the game of European dominoes that is being played, and as usual, looking for trends. In matters of science, policework, or music, you look for patterns, and their disruption. Often the variance is more important than the mean. What statisticians call an outlier is frequently the most relevant point on the graph. And that’s the one they remove.

Pattern analysis can significantly help in combating crime. That was one of the things Commissioner Bill Bradley did in NYC. The tool used was something called GIS, a Geographic Information System. This was part of the arcana of science until Google Earth emerged. Now everyone uses a GIS, map layers, and overlaying, without calling it anything difficult.

 In late August I heard Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley open a conference in Baltimore. The governor gave a superb address, dealing with the intricacies of Chesapeake Bay and its management. He used scientific terminology more authoritatively than many scientists I know. O’Malley explained how he had used Bradley’s approach to develop something called Crimestat in Baltimore, to clean up inner city crime. He described how the same approach had been implemented by the governor’s office as Baystat, for the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay. The bay has significant problems, not least the pollution from an annual production of 500 million chickens.

Goodnight Irene. A wet evening in Baltimore, as the hurricane makes its way north up the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

He spoke for three-quarters of an hour. And that was the day after Irene came to town, so he was having a pretty busy afternoon. I listened spellbound, and I have no doubt he will be the U.S. president in 2016 if he wants to run for office―which he does. The man has Kennedyesque appeal. What a contrast to Rick Perry’s extraordinary debacle yesterday.

But yesterday was also the day that the kingmaker forced one more European domino to hit the ropes. Berlusconi, famous for so many unfortunate gaffes, including congratulating Obama on his suntan. For me, Berlusconi was the outlier, because his government is on the right of the political spectrum. Until you realize that ousting him through the force of the markets deprives Italy from substituing him in an electoral process that might restore the left to power.

Other than that, the commonality of three socialist or liberal governments being replaced due to market pressures is glaringly obvious. Fianna Fáil in Ireland, described among other things as a “populist” party, replaced by Fine Gael, whose roots are anchored in Christian democracy.

The Portuguese socialists of Sócrates (now there’s a name), replaced by a social-democrat and christian-democrat coalition.

And now the dynastic socialism of Papandreou has been replaced by a government of national unity. Names of this kind tend to appear when the shit has not only hit the fan, but is happily flying in all directions. Who better, then, to attempt a cleanup job, than a former ECB banker?

In Spain, socialist prime-minister Zapatero has withdrawn from the upcoming election, which leaves his unfortunate understudy in a rather fragile position going to the polls, in the country with highest unemployment in all of Europe.

And then there were four. The king is dead, long live the kingmaker.

The India Road QR links for smartphones: point your camera and click.

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One Response to “The Kingmaker”

  1. Philip Scott Says:

    Pedro II (Pedro I’s son) someone who actually really developed infrastructure, education and fostered free press, was eventually ‘sent back’ to Europe by Republican Brazilians who set up Congress. Nov 15 commemorates this date. When I mentioned this to my Fortaleza taxi cab driver, who had actually taken the initiative of informing me of upcoming holiday, and its reason, I asked, – ‘So, how is the Congress doing after Pedro (II) has gone? (kind of referring to several recent and historic scandals anyway…) To which he replied with – Oh, its going very well! people meeting up later for drinks and partying… After a few more comments I understood he was referring to some big meeting / symposium happening in town! And I thought I spoke Brazilian Portuguese!

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